EdTech Accelerator Series: Kaplan

Following from our look at the first cohorts of Pearson’s EdTech incubator, we’d like to turn our attention to Kaplan’s EdTech accelerator to get a sense of what their inaugural Class of 2013 looked like.

We blogged about Kaplan’s EdTech accelerator last year before they’d collaborated with their first wave of startups, so it’s high time we took the time to see what the output of their programme has been. Firstly, here’s a very brief overview of what the lucky startups are able to enjoy upon their initiation into the programme:

  • $20,000 investment from Techstars – Kaplan’s partners in the initiative
  • An optional extra $150,000 convertible note from Kaplan itself
  • Shared office space in New York
  • Mentorship from a network of entrepreneurs, investors, industry movers-and-shakers and Kaplan execs
  • Access to Kaplan’s user base of 1 million + students and over 10,000 educators in order to capture feedback on their products
  • Access to ‘decision makers’ in over 300 US school districts and more than 20 university partners across the globe

The programme runs for 3 months at the end of which the participating companies will take part in a final demo day pitch to ‘critical stakeholders’ across the EdTech community. These consist of investors, edu-leaders and potential business partners from across the education industry.

When compared to the cohort that went through the Pearson programme, we see a rather different approach; Pearson tasked their intake with developing their products to specifically support existing or in-development Pearson products and services. Kaplan, however, are indicating through their chosen companies that they are more interested in cultivating a learner’s ability to navigate and curate the overwhelming amount of content available online. There is a certain amount of learner empowerment being promoted here. See what you think.

So, who are the first batch of startups that graduated last year, and what does it tell us about Kaplan’s approach to EdTech?

Degreed‘s tagline is ‘jailbreak the degree’ and the approach they’re taking to learning is most certainly a unique one. The Degreed service enables you to track and score all of the learning that you take part in – in whatever form it happens to take. Whether it’s a book you’ve read or an evening course you’ve taken, Degreed curates all of your learning activity into ‘micro-credentials’ to capture and express your ongoing education journey. The aim is to give individuals credit for all aspects of their learning efforts rather than just the officially accredited courses or exams. The service also provides learning pathways that are based on ‘Case Studies’ of high-achieving individuals so that you can see what edu-journey they undertook to get where they are.


Flinja is a platform responding to a very specific need in the US employment market. University students and alumni are able to register with Flinja and to create a public profile in which they list their skills, experience,, areas of specialty and hourly rates. In response to that, businesses and startups are able to gain access to this database of over 100,000 users to accurately target their recruitment drives. The jobs or projects that the users are connected with through the platform go on to feed into their Flinja profiles even further, enhancing and widening their appeal. The platform very stylishly (and effectively) manages the demand and supply of skilled labour whilst delivering a way of logging and building on that experience. It’s currently in Beta.


In response to the perceived downturn in math abilities in US schools, Mathify has created a platform for converting text books into more engaging, glitzy content. Incorporating elements of learning science and game design, Mathify aims to increase learner progress in maths through making the content fun, interactive and as un-textbooky as you can get. It is able to run on iOS tablets, PCs and android tablets.

 Mentormob  (a lifestyle version of the LessonPaths brand) provides a crowd-curation solution to those wanting to learn something online but who don’t know how / have the time to plough through the myriad of sites, vids and blogs for the best, most relevant learning resources. An ingenious idea, and especially compelling given that it’s free.

Modern Guild has created  the next generation of apprenticeship programmes. Through their online platform, high school and college students are able to be put in contact with a career coach for a course of 1-to-1 mentoring. Throughout the 8-10 course the student will be given ‘career readiness’ coaching to assist them in recognising and building their  career goals. They will also be put in touch with industry professionals to get a clearer sense of what they can expect to encounter and be expected to deliver in the real working environment. The aim is to enable students to make better, more informed (and motivated) decisions when it comes to the life-changing moment of choosing a degree course and university.

Following their participation in the Kaplan/Techstars accelerator, Modern Guild received a further $730,000 of venture funding back in December.

Newsela curates real news articles from both regional and national newspapers and rereleases them graded to five reading levels.

Every day.

A learner is presented with a day’s worth of news tailored to their level (although they are able to ‘level up’ at any time) and are given embedded activities to track their progress and development through the Common Core standards. The platform’s integrated analytics enable both the teachers and the learners to identify where and how reading ability could be better supported. The Newsela team have aimed their platform at the millions of Grade 3-12 students in the US, as well as  any of the billions of English language learners worldwide “who have ever struggled to understand the content they want to read.”.

Following its participation in the accelerator, Newsela has received a further $1.2 million in venture funding and is being used by over 4,000 schools in the US and has registered institutions in over 52 countries

Freshly juiced-up with their $500,000 of venture funding only a few weeks ago, panOpen is gearing itself up to be a real game-changer when it comes to delivering learning materials to the HE market. The company has a finely-tuned objective; to bring open education resource-generated textbooks  to the mainstream of college study. While the adoption of open education resources (OERs) is on the rise, panOpen is aiming to enable institutions to take the extra steps to fully embracing and integrating OER learning materials through their platform.

 Ranku is a straightforward, well-backed (by serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban) search engine that allows users to search, compare and apply to online courses offered by a huge range of universities. It offers a more personalised, supportive solution to sourcing the ideal online course than commission-driven agencies.

Uvize have created a platform to assist military veterans in orientating themselves within the academic environment. The online preparation course is delivered through partnerships with colleges and universities and also serves to cultivate a sense of community among the student body by introducing the students to their veteran classmates, advisors and mentors. Uvize’s approach to building a strong learning community as well as preparing veterans for reintroduction to the education system is intended to increase the success rate of its users.

Verificient is an online testing platform that safe gurads the integrity of online exams through the continuous verification and behaviour tracking of online test takers. Their flagship product, Proctortrack,  is the only fully-automated remote proctoring solution that continuously verifies the identity of online test takers. Through using facial recognition technology it is able to ensure that test takers don’t cheat by being able to tell when they leave the desk or have someone else sit in their place. It can also tell when they’re searching the web or looking off screen at another resource. Smart stuff, if a little unsettling in its ability.



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